Self Publishing's Impact On Small Publishers

Let’s hearken back about two years ago when ereaders were starting to get more attention. I was one of those people who said,  “Yes, they will be popular.” 

I envisioned people everywhere pulling out their readers on buses, in coffee shops in classrooms.  I imagined the morning paper on a reader lying on the table next to a steaming cup. I truly saw the American people embracing the newest technology.

What I didn’t see coming was the huge swell of self-publishing authors because of ereaders. And holy wow, this is a tidal wave of epic proportions. There have been many blog posts by people far smarter than me about the semantics. The why factor. But one angle hasn’t been covered, well not that I’ve seen at least. What does this shift in the publishing world mean to authors who are with small publishers?

Let me just admit, this is a rather self-centered post. Because what I’m trying to figure out is how does this new wave impact me? Usually I’m pretty good about being able to feel out where something is heading, but right now I’m facing lots of major change in my life and for some reason this change in the publishing world seems to be the straw that is attempting to break my proverbial back.  And after having had two back surgeries, you can imagine, I’m sensitive to issues involving the back – proverbial or not! So I turned to other authors who are published with small publishers to see what they are thinking.

The self published stories that I’ve read have not been too impressive. I usually find lots of typos, grammatical errors, duplicated words, etc. Kim Baccellia, author of the young adult titles Earrings of Ixtumea and Crossed Out, who also reviews books for YA Books Central agrees, but adds, “That’s not the case with all self pubbed books though. At my last speaking engagement the other author on my panel was self published. She went over all the research she’d done on what’s out there. I was impressed.”

My personal worry with the degrading quality is the example it gives our children. Humans, by nature, would rather take the short cut. If we (as a populous) allow poorly edited works to rise to the top and reward them with success, then we are in turn accepting that an inferior product is good enough. I know this is a big leap, but our country didn’t become a world power on “good enough”. It did the HARD WORK!

The price point for many ebooks is eye catching as well.  It is an interesting thing overall, because you would think that ebooks should be cheaper because of the lack of printing and a reduction in resources to get the book to the readers. I asked Beverly Stowe McClure, author of Just Breeze and Caves, Cannons & Crinolines what she thought about the plummeting price point of ebooks. “I will try self published books if the price is right and they appeal to me. I wouldn't pay the prices of traditionally published books.  The downside to this would be if it was poorly written I probably wouldn't try that author again which wouldn't help her/his future books.”  I tend to agree. The lower price draws my attention. An inferior quality disappoints, even at a lower price. I learned this after reading Amanda Hocking’s Trylle Series. I won’t invest in her again until she is professionally published.

There has always been a definite attitude about self published books. Beverly admits, “When I see that a book is self published, I think I look at it differently than I do books by known publishers. I don't want to, but I wonder why it was self published.” Because this trend to self publish is unfurling like my spring garden, I’m starting to feel some impact on how my small publisher book is viewed by reviewers (this is the self-centered part). While researching the blogosphere to find potential reviewers, I’ve had some refuse me because a.) my publisher isn’t listed with Children’s Writers and Illustrators or reviewed by School Library Journal or [insert some other status quota here] and b.) they don’t review self published books. To what I say, “HUH?” Kim has felt some of the same response, “I have to admit I dislike being lumped together with self-pubbed books.  Both of my books are from small press publishers meaning I had a couple editors, illustrator, and also paid NOTHING for the whole process.  I also had a publicist to help with some of the promotional part of publishing a book.  Yes, it wasn’t much, but it was something.”   The publisher discrimination will likely get worse before it gets better while this trend continues and that makes me a little sad. My book is a great read for the targeted age group, but it likely won’t see the recognition it deserves because the people with the big audiences look down their noses at the means in which I got it published – whether they understand it is with a small publisher or if they mistakenly think I self published.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining. I’m not pointing a finger at “the bad guys.” I’m not even losing sleep from the frustration of publisher discrimination. I will continue to do whatever is in my power to spread the word about my book. Ultimately, I would love for my book to help my publisher grow just a little more, to reward them for taking a chance on The Weaver and on me.  But from where I’m sitting, it seems like my job got a little harder because of the self publishing trend.

Beverly summed it up so well when I asked how she thought small publishers, especially epublishers, can overcome the increasing stigma, “Just write a great story, turn out quality books, well edited and entertaining. Get reviews. Prove the books can compete with major leaguers.” Kim agreed and added, “Typos can happen to even the biggest publishing house.  The trick is to not rush through the editing process.”

They are absolutely right. That is all any of us can do. We have to give our best work and find the best home for it. If some choose to self publish, then we have to hope the readers are discriminating enough to let the author know when the work isn’t good enough, but reward them when it is. Not all self publishing is inferior. I guess this current trend is a lot like what happened in the stock market when day traders entered the picture in a big way.  Lots of new options peaked and then failed fast. Eventually, those who didn’t really know what they were doing fell out of the game and those who had a knack stuck around.

I’d like to thank Kim Baccellia and Beverly Stowe McClure for talking with me about this issue. Please take a little extra time to find out more about their books.

Being Monday, my virtual book tour continues! Please enjoy the lovely review at 4 The Love of Books and visit with me as I guest blog about summer reading for reluctant readers at Margaret Rose Writes.


  1. Very insightful and thoughtful post. Even before the plethora of self-pubbed ebooks there were bookstores, contests, reviewers what have you who weren't sure if a book or author or press was *good enough* so I think this is a trend of literary snobbishness that will continue in the industry no matter what.

  2. Great post, Kai! And thank you to Kim for the link. It's especially interesting since my trilogy is with a small press.

  3. Enjoyed your post, Kai.It should be interesting to see what the future brings.

    P J's books are a good example of the great books small indie publishers produce. I've read The Emerald Tablet and you won't find a better book anywhere.

  4. Karen, I forgot to mention bookstores. I've gotten that response from some too.

    PJ, I'm particularly interested in your situation, because you will really be able to compare the two sides! And from Bev's recommendation, I'll have to check out The Emeral Tablet!

    Bev, I agree. The future will be interesting. Some good some bad. Stigmas made and lost. Interesting indeed.

  5. Eventually, the marketplace will filter out the lack of quality. Most of the authors we meet are people who have found a niche that the publishing industry cannot cater to.

    As authors/editors/small publishers tame the Dodge City that currently is self-publishing, I believe that your fears will decrease dramatically.

    Excellent post.

  6. I agree with KarenG that the snobbishness has been around for a while, and will continue. I'm not sure that the small publishers have it any worse than they did before - in fact, some of the legitimacy of self-publishing (if you make a million $ at something, it starts to earn legitimacy) may be rubbing off on it. I think we're actually on the cusp of a lot of very good authors deciding to self-publish and flooding the market with great books that traditional publishing couldn't take the risk on. (Or that could be my wishful thinking. :))

    Also: If your small publisher is not listed with SCBWI, you can ask them to be added. They'll have to meet certain criteria and fill out an application. That's what I did. :)

  7. @I Love (first of all, how much fun is it to call someone "I Love!") I think you are right, time will weed out the worst of it.

    @Susan, you are an eternal optomist. Good for you (and us). Those nice happy thoughts crossed my mind. I know there will be really good books published because of it. Heck, I'm featuring one tomorrow that I suspect falls into that category & that I'm really excited about and for. But just like the slush pile that traditional publishing ferrets through for the reader, for every good one there will be scores of bad and the gun shy will be gun shy-er. And those who believed and invested and were disappointed will be added to the list of possible discriminators. Okay, maybe that is a bit doomsday, but it might happen.

    GAP is listed w/SCBWI. Yippee!

  8. Hey, Kai. Please stop by my blog and pick up your Stylish Blogger Award. :)


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